The accusation is made in a letter sent to FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura by Bility in which he claims Rochell Woodson, a former LFA executive committee member, was “under investigation for trying to illegally interfere in the affairs of the Sierra Leone Football Association”.
Woodson denies suggesting a bribe saying that she had warned Johansson, who she considered a friend, of unrest in her executive committee and that she advised her of their complaints that she was not paying their honorarium (allowable in the statutes and common within federations) and that when Johansson did pay them the amounts were at her discretion.
Insideworldfootball has a series of emails and letters between Woodson and Johansson as well as between Johansson and Bility. There is no mention of using ‘bribes’ in any of the correspondence.
Johansson has not returned a request for information by Insideworldfootball as to whether she felt the advice she was getting from Woodson was to bribe her executive committee members into compliance – that advice was unsolicited, though Woodson thought she was advising a friend.
Johansson has been facing strong opposition to her presidency in Sierra Leone – an opposition she has maintained previously is corrupt. However, her domestic issue ultimately revolves around her failure to unify stakeholders in the federation, hence the unrest.
Subsequent to the email exchange with Woodson, Johansson sent a letter of complaint to Bility last October in which she complained of “unwelcome interference” in her administration and that she considered her advice on how to handle her executive committee members “financially” as “unethical”. The way the advice was delivered might have been perceived that way, but the advice and information in itself wasn’t.
The tone of Johansson’s letter to Bility is in stark contrast to that of her emails to Woodson that thanked her for the advice and admitted there were challenges within her administration.
The issues are heightened amidst the current political jostling for position and votes in advance of the CAF elections this month and point to an alignment of convenience. Both Bility and Johansson are standing for election to the CAF executive committee. Both are keen supporters and flagwavers for CAF presidential candidate Ahmad Ahamd and FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
The timing of Woodson’s whistleblowing is inconvenient for them, putting them in the spotlight for the wrong reasons with the vote nearing. The nature of the response and bribery accusation (and the involvement of Johansson in the case) is not just a denial of the accusations but makes new accusations that are in danger of throwing a smokescreen over the first set of allegations made by Woodson – accusations that need to be investigated by FIFA no matter what their political preferences would be for the CAF leadership. Some African insiders are arguing that that should be a separate investigation in its own right.
There is an irony in the relationship between Bility and Johansson.
Johansson and Woodson had both served on the same FIFA women’s committee and had even organised a women match between Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014 on international women’s day.
Because of her friendship with Johansson, Bility had asked Woodson to talk to her and get vote for him in the FIFA election (that he was subsequently barred from standing in). That support was not forthcoming – Johansson emailed Bility to tell him why – but their own relationship seemingly has subsequently grown.
Woodson was expelled by the Liberian FA general assembly in 2016 for living in the US and, according to Bility, “abdicating her responsibility as an exco member”.
The hunt for political power makes friends of enemies and enemies of friends – nowhere is this more true than in FIFA and its African football politics.
It would be recalled that Isha Johansen was fraudulently selected as President of the SLFA in a process where the SLFA constitution was abused with imposters filling in for validated delegates during the last SLFA Congress. The Anti Corruption Commission in Sierra Leone, last year arrested and detained Isha a few weeks ago, in relation to an ongoing investigation they were carrying on the SLFA, with regards to "donor" funding the SLFA received.